Issue 44-October 2015
Annual Forum Sets Attendance Record in San Francisco
The California JPIA’s 20th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum: Managing Risk Like A Champion, held September 23 – 25, was the best-attended forum ever held in San Francisco with 287 people representing 64 member agencies, business partners, and Authority staff meeting at The Mark Hopkins Hotel.
The sports-themed Forum led off Wednesday with the Opening Session: Keeping Track of Your Roster, Power of the Pen, sponsored by Kutak Rock. Kelly Trainer and Traci Park, partners with Burke Williams & Sorenson impressed upon the audience that the responsibility to document employees is that of the entire organization, not just the human resources department. The main points of the presentation included the importance of documenting the on-boarding of new employees, capturing the accomplishments and accolades of employees, creating attorney-client privilege and effective documentation in the event of litigation, the importance of employee evaluations, and healthy supervisor/employee communication.
The opening session was followed by a well-attended First-Time Attendee Reception which then segued into the Welcome Reception and Dinner, sponsored by Carl Warren & Company and Cihigoyenetche, Grossberg & Clouse, giving all in attendance an informal and relaxed opportunity to network, connect, and enjoy the evening.
On Thursday morning the Forum moved down the field with a warm welcome from the Authority’s quarterback, Chief Executive Officer, Jon Shull. Assistant Executive Officer, Norm Lefmann, then introduced this year’s five finalists for the Third Annual Capstone Award, culminating with the announcement of this year’s winner: Nikki Salas, Director of Human Resources and Risk Management from the Town of Apple Valley.
This year’s keynote speaker was Dave Dravecky, a former Major League pitcher for the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants and 1983 All Star. During Finding Your Inner Champion, Dave drew from his personal experience with cancer and shared what he has learned about the meaning of success versus significance and how to find encouragement through adversity. He also described how the power of relationships with co-workers, teams, and benefactors are important assets in an age of austerity.
The Forum’s breakout sessions on Thursday addressed issues relevant to public agencies including: Bounce House and Inflatable Device Risks, Elected Official’s Use of Mobile Technology and Social Media, How to Handle Sensitive Human Resources Situations, Strategies for Dealing With the Homeless, Anatomy of a Liability Lawsuit, Understanding the Annual Contribution, Dealing Effectively With Public Safety Personnel, Negotiating Terms With Vendors, Liability Legal Update, Workers’ Compensation Root Cause Analysis, Managing Your Public Safety Policies, ADA 201, How to Reduce Workers’ Compensation Indemnity Costs, Effective Time Management, and Understanding Risk and Insurance Coverage. Most presentations are accessible via this link: Forum Agenda.
The game clock ended with Friday’s Closing Session: How to Manage Your Dugout, Moving From Conflict to Consensus. Sponsored by Burke, Williams & Sorensen and presented by Jim DeLizia, from DeLizia Consulting Services, the session focused on the fact that conflict can permeate all levels of a public entity. To be successful you need to proactively recognize the conflict, manage it and turn it into an opportunity to strengthen your team. Attendees learned how to lead a team successfully when faced with the differing opinions and strategies of fellow employees, their governing body, and other stakeholders.
The success of this year’s Risk Management Educational Forum was significantly owed to the overwhelming support of 40 sponsors, who contributed $152,000 toward the various Forum programs and activities. The Authority has always considered its business partners to be of strategic importance. This is true with respect to how they jointly work with members in managing risk, and also pertains to the role they play in underwriting a significant portion of the Authority’s Risk Management Educational Forum. That support has allowed us to continue to deliver an exceptional educational experience for members.
Mark your calendar now for the 21st Annual California JPIA Risk Management Educational Forum to be held October 12 – 14, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa.
Capstone Award Winner Announced at 2015 Risk Management Educational Forum
The 2015 Capstone Award was presented to Nikki Salas from the Town of Apple Valley at a ceremony held during September’s Risk Management Educational Forum. Nikki, who is Apple Valley’s Director of Human Resources and Risk Management, was selected from five finalists and was chosen for her outstanding risk management efforts. Some of Nikki’s accomplishments include establishing a town-wide, modified-duty program, which brings injured workers back into positions that accommodate their injuries, creating an inspection plan enabling staff to identify potentially hazardous equipment, and improving the town’s risk management program through proactive training.
The other Capstone finalists honored at the ceremony were Arlene Balmadrid from the City of Carpinteria, Susan Crumly from the City of Bellflower, Alicia Jensen from the City of Walnut, and Russell Morreale from the City of Palos Verdes Estates. Each of these finalists was presented with an award to honor their achievements.
The Capstone Award is presented annually to an individual at a member agency who best exemplifies the practice of risk management. The 2016 Capstone Award will be presented in a ceremony at the 2016 Forum, which will be held from October 12 – 14 at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa.
Photo: Norm Lefmann, Assistant Executive Officer for the California JPIA, with 2015 Capstone Award winner Nikki Salas of the Town of Apple Valley
La Puente Addresses Sidewalk Maintenance with Assistance from the Authority
At its September 8th City Council meeting, the La Puente City Council approved an agreement allowing the city to begin work to improve the condition of the city’s sidewalks. The decision to move forward with this project was made after the City of La Puente participated in a pilot program conducted by the Authority last fall.
For the pilot, the Authority looked into the different sidewalk maintenance methods used by two firms; one that utilizes a proprietary cutting technique and one that specializes in a traditional grinding technique. The goal of the pilot study was to better understand the two different approaches, in terms of cost and technique, in order to make an informed recommendation. The City of La Puente was selected to participate in the pilot because of its older street grid and the general condition of its sidewalks.
Both firms conducted thorough inspections of the sidewalks and reported their findings, which included physical address and location of hazards, pictures of damaged areas, size of hazards, and more. The Authority’s analysis of the data suggested that although there was little cost difference between the cutting and grinding processes, other factors, such as the richness of data collected, the number of areas recommended for sidewalk panel removal and replacement, and the quality of the finish, differentiated the two firms. Based on these factors and the data collected, the Authority felt that optimal way to assist members with their sidewalk repairs is to utilize the cutting procedure. Precision Concrete Cutting, the firm that participated in the pilot, was selected to assist members with their sidewalk maintenance.
Precision and the California JPIA entered into an agreement, that included the creation of a Master Service Agreement (MSA) that allows all members to take advantage of Precision’s services at a favorable rate.
The vast amount of data collected during the pilot program, along with the MSA, will assist La Puente in its efforts to improve the city’s sidewalk conditions. Speaking on behalf of the La Puente City Council, Mayor Daniel C. Holloway expressed, “We are paving the way for a safer La Puente by creating a more pedestrian-friendly city.”Members can view the MSA pricing and services by visiting the Resources and Documents library on cjpia.org and performing a search by keyword or by searching the Safety category. If you need assistance with your username or password to access the document, please visit the myJPIA Login page and click on the appropriate button to retrieve your username and/or password.
Photo: Sidewalk maintenance in La Puente
By Jim Thyden, Insurance Programs Manager
Many of us have heard about El Nino and that California may be in store for heavy rains soon. While that may help with the drought, it could cause devastating landslides, flooding, street closures, and damage to property owned by members and third parties.
So what can you do to prepare?
First, a little background about El Nino. It is not the rain itself but rather a weather condition that warms the Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere at the equator (for more detail, see this “Quick Take” from Bloomberg news). The two most recent El Ninos that caused the amount of rainfall some are predicting for Southern California were 1982-83 and 1997-98. Rainfall in the Los Angeles area each year was over 250% normal and more than 7” of rain fell in one day in some parts of California. Weather forecasters are predicting a 90% chance of similar rains that may begin any time but will likely start by late December. An increase this big can cause significant problems for members that have not prepared. Roofs can cave in due to water accumulation if rain gutters are not cleaned out. Flooding can cause damage if street gutters and storm drains are not cleared. Landslides can wipe out houses if there is no reinforcement of the land. Some of this should be done well before the rains but some will need to be done right before it rains, and in some cases, not long after it has rained in order to clear out debris that built up from the rains.
Armed with this knowledge, what can be done to reduce the risks and control the losses from both first-party (damage to member property) and third-party (damage to property of others, such as residents) perspectives? There are many resources and we have put together a guide for members. This includes information from the Authority’s partners in the Continuity of Operations Program, Los Angeles County, insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher, and news media.
Steps to Take
- review emergency plan and evaluate your local area’s flood risk
- establish emergency communication method, including entities critical to response (e.g. county)
- create/maintain inventory of supplies
- take steps to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals stored on properties
2. Contact your county any contractors to schedule maintenance work
- meet with residents, owners, and businesses to assist them in preparing
- train employees
- who to contact when severe rains come
- Authority resources: VeriClaim, Agility, and NorthStar
- internal staff
- NOAA Weather Radio
3. Perform inspections and maintenance
- roofs and rain gutters, scuppers, and downspouts
- during the fall when leaves drop, gutters and downspouts become blocked with debris, which can lead to water intrusion and ultimately, roof collapse. Prior to the rainy season, be sure to clear roof-mounted drains, gutters and downspouts of all debris. Also ensure completed roofing maintenance or re-roofing work does not block or cover roof-mounted drains.
- street gutters
- parking lots
- parking lots collect a great deal of runoff water and are designed to deliver this water to a drainage system. Leaf litter, debris, ice, and garbage can clog or obstruct these drains and cause the water to collect or travel toward a building. Best practices described above are also applicable in these cases.
- flood control channels
- hills and hillsides
- rubber drain line/piping system
- repair window seals and caulking prior to storm season, to prevent water intrusion
- ensure nearby drainage is unblocked and fully functional. Seal all below-grade windows with flashing, silicone sealants designed for long-term application and for reinforcing framework to sustain hydraulic (water) pressure, as needed
- sandbag subgrade doors and doors that are flush with grade entrances
- reinforce doors by installing water-tight seals, which can withstand any anticipated water pressure
- for exterior vents at the grade level, place suitable covering into position just prior to storm impact.
- check all equipment that might need to be operated continuously or used upon emergency demand, such as fire pumps and generators, to be sure there are no blocked intakes.
- install watertight seals, particularly around the vent opening and the foundation wall
- Extend the vent ‘snorkel’ up and well above the bottom of any dry well to prevent backfilling into the basement.
4. Drains and Pumps
- prevent storm drain backups by routinely checking and removing debris in the drain prior to and during the rain
- consider the installation of pumps, diverters and alternate discharge locations wherever storm drains have historically presented a problem
- larger facilities should obtain portable pumps and place them strategically to have adequate capacity for significant storms
- permanent pumps for storm water are typical for internal roof drains and for drain discharge
- when the municipal storm and sewage drainage system is full and backing up, there is no place to ‘push’ the water out of the building. This is where the installation of diverters to send non-sewage water to a different location can help limit the severity of the event
- a backflow preventer valve arrangement should be installed with access for clean-out and maintenance. Such a backflow preventer arrangement is essential, even if it needs to be installed under a sidewalk to facilitate clean-out. It is the most cost-effective form of water infiltration prevention.
5. Postpone non-essential activities and maintenance
- do not mulch, it will get washed away and cause blockages
- deliveries of certain goods
6. During rainfall
- secure all windows in the closed position, especially those at grade level, during storm events
- sandbag subgrade doors and doors that are flush with grade entrances
- use boards or “floodgate door guards” (commercially available and designed for this purpose) as a more permanent solution for subgrade building openings.
7. After rainfall
- continue inspections and maintenance listed above, there may be rabid debris buildup from the rains that can cause blockages and water buildup on roofs and in streets
- inspect buildings for damage, including structural damage and damage to water, gas, and electric & sewer lines
- contact Authority resources VeriClaim (property claims), Agility (workspace setups when existing workspaces are unusable), and NorthStar (emergency remediation)
- Flood Recovery Action Steps from BRIT Global Specialty Insurance
- County of Santa Barbara Homeowners Guide for Flood Prevention and Response
- County of Los Angeles report to Supervisors on Planning due to El Nino event
Liability Attorney Summit
The California JPIA held its Annual Liability Attorney Summit on August 20, 2015, at the Authority campus in La Palma. Over 70 participants attended the Summit, including representatives from 18 of the Authority’s liability defense panel firms.
Paul Zeglovitch, Liability Program Manager, welcomed attendees and presented a report on the state of the liability program. Zeglovitch stated that combined indemnity and expense payments made in 2014 remained consistent at approximately $23M. Expense payments during that same time period were down almost $1M, a testament to more focused claim resolution and litigation management. The law firms were applauded for their efforts in providing meaningful Lessons Learned reports at the conclusion of all litigated cases. These reports are critical in ensuring that we learn from the liability cases we incur and work with our members to remedy any deficiencies, rather than just closing the case, moving on and incurring an identical loss again in the future.
Three key sessions were presented at the Summit. Attorney Dan Barer of the law firm of Pollack, Vida & Fisher provided an appellate case update, covering cases related to inadvertent disclosure of privileged records through a Public Records Request, the release of attorney billing statements, detentions during the execution of search warrants and the pre-accident medical negligence of a plaintiff. The keynote session featured Judge Alexander Williams, III (ret) as well as Scott Grossberg, partner with the law firm of Cihigoyenetche, Grossberg, & Clouse. Judge Williams served as a Superior Court Judge in downtown Los Angeles from 1984-2008. This was an interactive session with Scott questioning Judge Williams about what judges want to see from defense counsel in their courtrooms. The discussion also included how attorneys should handle difficult judges, opposing counsel and the court clerk. It was a stimulating discussion that was well received by all counsel, regardless of the level of experience. The final session was a presentation by counsel from the defense panel firm of Woodruff, Spradlin and Smart on comparative liability in inverse condemnation cases. The presentation providing valuable information on how we can defend, and successfully apportion liability on inverse condemnation cases. These cases are generally considered to be “strict liability” when the public improvement can be determined to have been a substantial contributing factor to the plaintiff’s damages.
The event once again proved to be a great opportunity for the Authority’s defense counsel to gather, learn, share knowledge, and improve their respective abilities to successfully defend the members.
The California JPIA Management Academy was held October 5 – 8, 2015 at the La Bellasera hotel in Paso Robles. Forrest Story, principal consultant for Public Sector Excellence, and John Perry, President of Human Productivity Systems, facilitated the three-and-a-half-day academy.
The Management Academy exposes participants to leadership principles and practices that will help them to motivate and sustain employee performance, improve customer service, and increase productivity. The program focuses on the essentials of leadership designed for lead staff, new supervisors, those who are thinking of moving up to the job of supervisor, and for those experienced supervisors and managers who want to review some of the basics.
“For those engaged in the day-to-day tasks of leadership, the program offers the skills and strategies to help them build a culture of success, become better leaders, build a foundation that fosters positive and productive workplace relationships, collaborate to build performance excellence and achieve organizational goals, and accomplish the organization’s mission,” shared Story, who was instrumental in creating the program for the Authority.
The Management Academy format was expanded this year to allow participants more time to travel to the Academy, as well as augmenting John Perry’s Job Person Environment Assessment session.
- The Role of the Public Sector Supervisor
- Decision Making
- The Job Person Environment Assessment
- Orientation Training, Coaching, and Delegation
- Writing Policies, Procedures, and Programs
- Performance Appraisal and Dealing with Performance Issues
- Public Service Ethics
Thirty-six participants representing nineteen agencies attended the specialized academy. Due to the high demand of the Management Academy, the Authority has scheduled an additional Academy April 25 – 28, 2016 at the Westlake Village Inn, Westlake Village, CA.
For more information about the academies offered by the California JPIA, please email Michelle Aguayo, Training Coordinator.
To Drink or Not to Drink
By Maria Galvan, Risk Manager
To serve or not to serve? With the holidays approaching, many agencies are gearing up for their holiday or end of year employee recognition parties. The question of whether to serve alcohol is one that should be carefully evaluated. The consumption of alcohol at celebratory agency-sponsored events may create an environment for inappropriate behavior, which can lead to possible liability or workers’ compensation claims from employees, or claims from third parties due to incidents or injuries occurring during or after an event.
Many states impose liability where the host of an event in which alcohol is served is an employer and the event involves a business purpose. The employer has a greater duty to the employee guest due to the nature of the relationship (employer-employee). There is also the interpretation that an employee may feel obligated to attend an employer party more than another social event. Courts evaluate different factors when determining whether an employer is liable for an employee that is involved in an accident due to drinking at an employer function. Factors may include whether employees were required to attend, where the event was held, if guests were invited, whether employer business was discussed, and if the event was sponsored and planned by the employer or organized independently by employees.
In the 2013 ruling of Purton v. Marriott International, Inc., the California Fourth District Court of Appeal held the employer liable for a death caused by an employee who became intoxicated at an employer party. The employee arrived home safely, but then left to drive a co-worker home. The employee hit another car, killing its driver. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on the grounds that the employer’s potential liability under the doctrine of respondent superior ended when the employee arrived home. However, the appellate court reversed the decision and sent the case back for trial. The appellate court found that because the party benefited the employer by improving employee morale, the employer should be liable for the accident because the proximate cause of the injury (alcohol consumption at the party) occurred within the scope of employment.
The only way to avoid liability arising out of serving alcohol at an agency sponsored event is to not serve alcohol. However, if your agency does decide to provide alcohol, steps that could be taken to minimize liability:
- Ensure that sexual harassment training records are up to date. Review your agency’s discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policy and alcohol and drug use policy in advance of the event. Consider a policy stating that excessive drinking at agency functions will not be tolerated. The policy may include specific examples of conduct that will not be permitted. If your agency’s policies do not address employer-sponsored events, updating policies to cover these should be considered. Also, remind employees about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. Policies should be communicated using various methods: email, paycheck stub memo, bulletin boards, meetings, etc. Signed acknowledgements of receipt and understanding of policies should be obtained.
- Make attendance at agency events where alcohol will be served strictly voluntary and not a requirement of employment. This suggestion also applies to events where alcohol is not served and that are not for a business purpose.
- Limit the amount of alcohol served and type of alcohol. Some methods include having a cash bar or providing a limited number of drink tickets per person. Sweet drinks or punches with alcohol can sometimes make it difficult for an individual to know how much they have consumed. In addition, serve plenty of non-alcoholic beverages such as water, sodas, and juices.
- Close the bar one or two hours before the event is over. Continue to serve food.
- Hold the event off agency premises at an establishment with professional bartenders and a valid liquor license. Professional bartenders know how to respond to guests consuming alcohol in excess. If hiring professional bartenders or caterers, ensure they carry appropriate general liability and liquor liability policies. Do not allow agency employees to serve drinks to co-workers.
- Since these events are typically social, limit the discussion of business and hold the event outside of business hours.
- Consider allowing family and significant others to attend. Inviting guests suggests the event is a social event, rather than a business event. In addition, employees are likely to be more reserved and less inclined to take part in offensive behavior. However, if customers or business partners are invited, this increases the chances of the function being viewed as a business event.
- If inviting minor guests, do not serve alcohol.
- Consider having a monitor at the entrance of the event. A monitor can suggest that employees use alternative transportation in the event of intoxication and make sure alcohol is not brought into the location.
- Do not allow employees to bring alcohol to an agency event.
- Provide alternative transportation for employees leaving agency-sponsored events where alcohol is served. Encourage employees to have a designated driver.
- Consider scheduling the party earlier in the day, rather than later, so that employees are less inclined to drink excessively.
- Do not require non-exempt employees to perform functions at an event for the agency. This can help avoid claims that they were required to work off the clock.
Opinions vary on the subject of serving alcohol at agency parties. Consult with your legal counsel for specific advice. If you have questions, please contact your assigned Risk Manager.< Back to Full Issue Print Article